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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Inviting Jesus

I am learning that taking care of me is too big a task for me alone.

I fight hard, run hard, plan hard, strive, grasp, strain, feeding off the lie that “It’s up to me, after all” to execute this thing called Abbey’s life, to make life work.

Exhausted. That’s where the careening locomotion of my living deposits me- at the depot of Exhaustion. Here, at the leaky fountain I drink stale mouthfuls of disappointment. The oppressive air of loneliness is heavy. So much mass that it pierces past skin and assaults my soul. There are no other travelers at this station. I alone.

Because I failed, or forgot? to invite travelers along with me. I feel the lonely air weigh down body and soul. My fault, my own fault. Defeat is mine, this is what independent, self-reliant, practical atheists deserve. My portion, the dry taste in the mouth and the regretful ache in the heart.

Setting out on my bike last night. The Klings’ neighborhood; not my own. Unfamiliar. Brain racing as feet begin to pedal: “I must make this work. I must find a route. I must blaze a trail.” One hour before dusk and the task is defined. I am the train careening forward through the unknown. And the lonely ache rises, here, at the beginning of the Journey, disappointment enters.

Grace! The disappointment is His gift of grace to me in this moment. The rising loneliness whispers that life might be different. He intervenes. “You are forgetting Me, Abbey.” Yes! Lucidity. A moment of sanity cracks across my night soul more powerful than a thunderbolt across wilderness sky. I was forgetting Him. Forgetting my God. Forging forward alone into “great matters, things too difficult for me” (Psalm 131). A bike ride in Sacramento’s suburbia alone at dusk.

I respond. Penitent Lucy, saddened eyes ashamed to look full in Aslan’s face. “Jesus, yes, I was forgetting You. The rising empty ache tells me so. Thank You for that. Come with me, Jesus. Ride with me alone tonight. Show me the way. Let’s do this. Together.”

Acknowledgement of sin, of my practical atheism, destroys the bulwark Pride erected between my God and I. There is no barrier now. Together we ride. He shares with me a dirt trail, children relishing in cool evening air at the park, a smooth road, a hill to climb, then one to coast and climb again, sweat and breath, sight and movement. Quarter moon rises over silhouetted treetops, spindly pines and taller palm trees. Silvery wonder illuminates night’s blue black heavens. We share this, on this ride I take with Jesus. The one I am too small to take alone.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2014: What's Your Word?

Friday, 20 December, 2013.

It was two weeks ago that I remembered to start asking Him. My experience is that He prefers, with these kinds of questions, to not give an immediate reply. The time interval between Question and Answer is His invitation for me to run with Him (Draw me after you and let us run together! Song of Songs 1:4) deeper into the Mystery (This is a profound mystery- but I am talking about Christ and the Church, Ephesians 5:32). And to practice the discipline of Waiting. Apparently, I need the practice.

Last year, or rather- this present one which wanes- was my first to ask and wait. His response, from Isaiah, arrived well into the New Year. One January is idyllic but was not apparently on God’s Day planner or Smartphone calendar ap to respond by that date. (So pregnant was she in the New Year that January 2013 has nearly birthed February before God responded with my Answer.) Waiting was better than not-waiting, and asking better then my M-O of independent, unilateral decision making.

This is my introduction because I invite you to join me in asking and waiting.

Several Decembers ago a friend gifted me with a new New Years tradition. No resolutions, but a Word. A Word for the year. The Word is the theme for the New Year. It is the magnet which draws me back to my purpose or goal or intention for that calendar year.

For 2012 I collected a list of possible words which I thought would help me grow past areas of weakness and immaturity. The list grew, I assessed it, and over a series of several weeks chose Bigger. Patterns in my life revealed that I needed to cultivate a bigger, more precise view of my God, and a maturing view of how Abbey fits into the Story He is telling. Bigger became a helpful theme. I started reading the Bible with a single purpose: Who is this God I say I love and worship? I needed answers, needed to know Him. Bigger fueled my quest. It also helped contextualize my place within this Redemption Story He writes. My egocentric imagination naturally conceives that my role is more significant than the one God actually cast for me. His invitation for me is not to fill a primary role, but a supporting one.

I think that because my Word for 2012 was Bigger that I approached my 2013 word selection differently. What was for me in 2012 a calculated, analytical, nearly scientific, and entirely unilateral process by 2013 transformed into a personal inquisition. Throughout 2012 I had learned and experienced more of Who God is and on the Eve of the New Year my confidence in His personal nature had grown enough to ask for and trust Him with His help: Oh You Who are authoring “God’s Abbey-story,” what theme do You intend for me this year?

Jacob’s Genesis biography foreshadows mine. God’s wrestling with and renaming of Jacob have proven a prototype for His dealings with me. From God’s wrestling Jacob receives a permanent limp and a new name, Israel. Like Jacob, my limp reminds me of Who God is; like Israel I am growing into the new identity God gave me. It’s a process.

God led me to His response to my New Year’s eve Word inquiry last year while sampling Isaiah’s book:

You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called My-Delight-is-in-her {Hephziba} and your land Married {Beluah}; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a maiden, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you (62:2-5).

DELIGHT: intense pleasure, enjoyment, joy.

In 2013 I have gotten to more fully lay hold of the unfathomable reality of God’s delight in me. My delight in Him- this infinite, glorious, perplexing, protecting, generously giving, rescuing, redeeming, patient, kind-hearted Father- grows.

Through the synergy and tension of Him delighting in me and me delighting in Him this year I made little and big decisions differently from January through December. I realized the freedom my Father gifted me with to, despite confusing and unexpected opposition, choose Iraq. When Iraq became unattainable in 2013 it was my delight to choose California- a decision affirmed again and again by God’s graciously kind providences. I have said No and Yes, Yes and No to many exciting and dangerous responsibility and relational opportunities. I am learning how to enjoy life, how to rest, and how to laugh, really laugh. I have practiced, and practiced, and practiced the hard, humbling discipline of trusting God’s declarations about who I am over my own strong feelings to the contrary. Deep desires previously unknown to me, soul-depths formerly untested, have been exposed, and in raw desperation I have cried them to my God. And He has heard. He delights in listening to my startled cries of grief and explosions of joy.

So I am asking Him and you. Him: What is my Word for 2014? And you: What is yours? 2013 has proven to me that engaging God in this Question is entirely worth the awkward, hard, silent interval between Asking and Receiving.

"The Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Happy are all who wait for Him!" (Isaiah 30:18)

2013- A Photo Collage of A Year of Delight: